What We Are Reading Today: Self-Portrait in Black and White

Updated 20 October 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Self-Portrait in Black and White

Author: Thomas Chatterton Williams

Thomas Chatterton Williams’ book Self-Portrait in Black and White is “more rigorous than mournful, an account of solutions more than of problems, marked by self-deprecating humor and acute sensitivity,” said Andrew Solomon in a review for The New York Times.  
Solomon added: “Williams, a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine, is well educated, intellectually sophisticated and prosperous, and he tries to limn the complex relationship between race and class, to figure out where racism is classism and where classism is racism, an almost Escher-like maze as snobbery casts a thin veil over racial hatred and vice versa.”
While Self-Portrait in Black and White “begins with assertions of Williams’ blackness, it evolves into a rich set of questions occasioned
by the birth of his first child,” said Solomon.
The critic said Williams’ final chapter, Self-Portrait of an Ex-Black Man, “explores his rejection of an identity that he has seldom sought but frequently embraced.”


What We Are Reading Today: The Confounding Island by Orlando Patterson

Updated 19 November 2019

What We Are Reading Today: The Confounding Island by Orlando Patterson

Author Orlando Patterson investigates the failures of Jamaica’s postcolonial democracy, exploring why the country has been unable to achieve broad economic growth and why its free elections and stable government have been unable to address violence and poverty.
Patterson “is a Jamaican who has long lived in the US, working as a sociology professor at Harvard University, which allows him both an intimacy with the island and a degree of distance through which to analyze it,” said Carrie Gibson in a review for The New York Times.
Gibson said: “Although Patterson provides extensive citations and robust discussions of theoretical frameworks, he also offers a personal story of affection and frustration, perhaps most evident in the questions that form all but one of the eight chapter titles. These include: ‘Why Has Jamaica Trailed Barbados on the Path to Sustained Growth?” and ‘Why is Democratic Jamaica So Violent?’ Indeed, these two questions are so significant, he devotes the first half of the book to them.”